Cavafy on the beach…

–A friend recently presented me with a small collection of C. P. Cavafy’s poetry.  I am familiar with his work, but not so much with those collected in this small, beautiful anthology.

–Today we lay on the beach on Andiparos.  Waves lapped at the rocks; birds sang in the dry, hot September air; we swam, ate lunch.  We read Cavafy to each other.  I was particularly moved by his poem ‘Ithaca’, written in 1911.   It is of leaving and arriving, the maturation of the soul and that this is all we may wish for as our journeys continue.

–We all come to places, places we have read about in books, or perhaps overheard–they are awed, exotic hushed whipsers.  We all leave these places, hopefully taking with us what we have been given, what we can carry, gifts from Phoenecians…


As you set out bound for Ithaca
hope that the journey is a long one,
full of adventures, full of learning.
Of the Laestrygonians and Cyclopes,
of wrathful Poseidon have no fear,
you’ll never meet suchlike on your journey,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if noble
sentiment grips your body and spirit.
You’ll never encounter raging Poseidon,
Laestrygonians and Cyclopes,
unless you bear them in your soul,
unless your soul sets them before you.
Hope that the journey is a long one.
That the summer morns be many
when with what delight, what joy
you enter harbours hitherto unseen;
that you stop at Phoenecian markets,
and acquire fine merchandise,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
and all kinds of heady perfumes,
as many heady perfumes as you can;
that you visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from the erudite.
Always keep Ithaca in mind.
To arrive there is your destination.
But in no way rush the voyage.
Better for it to last many years;
and for you to berth on the isle an old man,
rich with all you gained on the journey,
without expecting Ithaca to give you riches.
Ithaca gave you the wonderful voyage.
Without her you would not have set out on your way.
Yet she has nothing more to give you.
And though you may find her wanting, Ithaca has not
                                                                            deceived you.
Wise as you’ve become, with so much experience,
already you’ll have understood what these Ithacas mean.
C.P. Cavafy, 1911

I will continue reading Cavafy.  I fall into his words, as one falls into a conversation.




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2 Responses to Cavafy on the beach…

  1. peter macken September 8, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    Epicurus valued friendship very much, so when he was 35 years old he bought a big house, and invited some of his friends to live together with him. He stated that friends are an essential ingredient for happiness, and that we need their permanent company -when we eat, walk, or feel the need for conversation. Epicurus said one should never ever eat anything alone, that it’s more important to have a simple meal with a special friend than to eat all sort of delicacies all by ourselves.

    Freedom stands for the second ingredient of happiness. To break free from the agitated life of Athens, he and his friends decided to move to the countryside and lead a simple, beautiful, healthy life there. They could grow their own food crops and did not depend financially on anybody anymore. They could enjoy nature, fresh air, good food, and did not care if their clothes looked shabby. Money seemed to no longer have power over them.

    And last but not least, a third thing we need to be happy is “an analyzed life”. That meant taking time to think and consider our worries, what stresses out and why. Epicurus was of the opinion that our worries might decrease simply by analyzing them very carefully and rationally. In this respect, one might take into account here the Christian perspective on worries – namely trusting the Almighty to provide us with all the necessary goods we need to survive. At any rate, though he lived before the appearance of Christianity, Epicurus seems to agree that we should base our life on a spiritual support rather than a material one in order to be utterly, divinely happy.

  2. John September 8, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    Thank you Peter. I hate eating alone. All three of these concepts are important to me, especially the analyzed life idea. An unexamined life is not worth living. JDCM